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Self-Care Mondays #12: Make a Self-Care Plan

One of the most important tenets of self-care for me is that self-care is a prevention tool. This means that engaging in self-care practices can prevent stress, becoming overwhelmed, having emotional breakdowns, coming into negative head space, or disillusionment. The most important thing however, is that self-care is used in a way to prevent first, then treat. This means that self-care is engaged in a routine and daily fashion not just relied upon when stress takes over. So engage in creating your own self-care plan in order to make sure you’re maintaining emotional health instead of just remedying it when it starts to falter. Here are some tips:

make-a-self-care-plan

 

  1. Creating a self-care plan can be done in the way that best suits your personality. If you’re a little type A and need some structure to your day make sure you write in (WITH PEN) your daily self-care practices or rituals. If you’re more type-B don’t worry about having a set plan for each day but pay attention to the rhythm and flow and stay mindful of the best times to utilize for self-care. Either way make a commitment to at least a 10-15 minute self-care ritual each day. You may have to test and trial times and spaces that work for you based on your schedule. You may think that you’ll wake up an hour early each day and then keep hitting the snooze button- then its time to change what time is best for your self-care ritual.
  2. Each morning  take some time to think mindfully about which practice would most benefit you during your self-care time. This is important because we can easily fall into doing something that is mindless or not as impactful during self-care time. “Me time” is different than “self-care time.” Self-care time is mindful and focused on doing something to enhance your emotional and/or physical wellbeing. “Me time” is giving in to whatever desires you have for yourself and maybe even indulging- there is nothing wrong with this. However, self-care time is more planful and intentional and a NECESSITY, not a luxury. I have watched so many nap times come and go where I didn’t feel any more nurtured or rested because I sat in front of the TV or on the internet for 2 hours and that wasn’t refreshing for me. That “me time” wasn’t working for me so I had to devote the first half hour to mindful self-care and then I could turn on the tube.
  3. Keep a list of self-care practices readily available. Sometimes it can be daunting to even sit down and think about what we want to do for ourselves. Having a list of self-care rituals at hand can be helpful to select what is best for ourselves that day. Breaking self-care rituals into different categories that address our needs can also be helpful. Feeling a little in need of more social time? Have a list of self-care rituals that help address loneliness or disconnection such as writing an email to an old friend, scheduling a coffee date with another mom, or Skyping with your cousin who lives overseas.

Here are some examples of self-care rituals from various aspects of human need. You can ask yourself what area you feel you have the most need in and select a practice from that category.

Spiritual– Read from a religious text or spiritual book, pray, reflect, or meditate, journal, educate yourself on a spiritual subject you’ve wanted to learn more about

 Emotional– write in a gratitude journal, write a letter to yourself talking about your strengths, open up and ask for support from a friend, engage in healthy coping skills, read a self-help book, journal, engage in some form of creative expression through writing, art, dance, or music

Physical- exercise, yoga, sensory rituals that heal such as hot baths, aromatherapy, schedule a massage

 Social – write an email to an old friend, go a new group or social event and meet new people, engage in an online support group, schedule time out with friends, schedule a date night or private time with your partner, call a friend or family member just to catch up

Intellectual– read the news, read a book, engage in a hobby or start a new hobby, make a list of goals, join a group based on your interests

 

Take 5 minutes today or tomorrow to engage in making a self-care plan and stick to it no matter what. Making this a daily ritual can have an amazing impact on maintaining good emotional health.

 

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The Other Side

 

The Other Side

 

 

I was in a dark place this last week.

It was dark outside. It was dark inside my mind. I was not me.

I allowed myself to stay in this dark place for quite awhile. I allowed the sleep deprivation to keep me under water. Instead of fighting to thrive I just decided to survive.

Some days as moms we talk about how it is just about getting through the day. But when that becomes every day for a period of time it starts to feel like a dark place. You don’t want to just survive. You want to live, to experience happiness, accomplishment, connection, and fulfilment.

And then this morning I took a brief walk. It was just 5 minutes around my city block while I listened to music but the air felt fresher, my eyes stayed forward instead of looking down, there was a bounce in my step. And it hit me- I had reached the other side.

It’s hard to remember when we are in our dark place that the other side exists. That is is waiting for us. Sometimes it’s up to us to get there and sometimes life circumstances brings it to us. But it is there. Sometimes it gets hard, really hard to find it or wait for it to come. But it’s always out there somewhere.

It’s the place where our best self exists. It’s the place where we feel more whole. The sun shines in our mind. We see all that is before us and are grateful. We see a beautiful self in the mirror and not the monster that was there before.

I write to remember this moment, that refreshing moment of entering the other side. I write so that I remember that it exists if I leave it and am in a dark place again.

I will not get this past week back. I can not take away my mistakes. I can not erase the irritability, the coldness that I spread to my son because he was the only one there to take it. It hurts when I think about it. But its something else I need to remember. I am capable of allowing myself to be less than I am when I’m in dark place. I must be gentle with myself and then others, I must assert my needs, I must ask for help.

So I’ll hopefully be on the other side for awhile. The dark side will start to slowly pull me back. My self-awareness is my best weapon. My belief that I am worthy of always being on this side can help keep me here longer. And if I do get pulled back to the dark side my memory of the other side can hopefully keep my stay there shorter and the strength and motivation to get back to it stronger.

 

 

Humor, Uncategorized

So this happened last night.

4 hours of demanding TV in the middle of the night before he went back to bed. It has been a couple of nights we have struggled with this. I believe TV may be a big coping mechanism for my son because it was something I used a lot (unfortunately) during our big move. The grandmas spent two weeks with us and just left and it makes sense that he would have some difficulties adjusting to their absence. I’ve learned how hard it is to tow the line with your child in the middle of the night when you live in an apartment building. My fear that the neighbors will complain snowballs into our deportation from Australia back to the United States and my husband losing his job. My therapist self knows this is a completely irrational thought but it doesn’t stop me from giving in so my son stops crying. So I try to find the humor in it and help him through this transition. He screams “WHY?! WHY?!” wanting to watch Super Why. My husband and I laugh at what the neighbors may think. It gets funnier when he switches back and forth between asking for Super Why and Daniel Tiger. “WHY?!? Daniel?!?! WHY?!?!” The neighbors must think we have a guy named Daniel living with us that is causing some serious distress to our 2 year old. So we make it through the night somehow and I survive the day by getting coffee while Harry blows kisses to our usual barista. He never blows kisses back.When Your 2 old screams in the middle of the night, -WHY-! WHY-!- Don't worry. He's not having an existential crisis. He just wants to watch Super Why.

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Control Freak

I almost lost my mind over a bath toy the other day. You see, I had just finally got my son to bed almost 2 hours past his bedtime and was cleaning up his bath toys. He has this Daniel Tiger bath toy where Daniel Tiger sits on top of this boat. The problem was that Daniel Tiger doesn’t fit on top of the boat in his little crevice so he continues to fall off the boat when you put him on top of it. Why would they make a toy where Daniel Tiger can’t stay on the frickin’ boat?!? What’s the point of having a Daniel Tiger boat if Daniel can’t even drive the boat?!?! After the fifth time of placing the boat on the side of the tub and the little Daniel figurine falling off AGAIN I threw the toy across the room.

If you haven’t already guessed, this post isn’t about a bath toy or the makers of Daniel Tiger bath toys. Although to be honest if I had an extra minute in my day I might write them a letter.

I stopped for a minute and laughed at myself when the boat crashed into the corner of the bathroom. I was being utterly ridiculous. And my therapist self began to take over and I began to analyze. What is the real problem here? Often when we are losing our rational selves over inconsequential problems they are symbols that the larger problems underneath are unresolved and taking their toll.

For me the bath toy incident was about losing control. I needed to have some control and when this simple bath toy wasn’t cooperating I couldn’t handle it. But it represented the larger issues out of my control that I have been managing lately. I can’t seem to get my son on a decent schedule after our move across the world. I don’t have control in my sense of what the next year would bring. Will I make friends? Will I feel comfortable here? What will happen to my career while I take a year off? I wasn’t slowing down to think and resolve my fears and insecurities. And it all came crashing down on poor little Daniel Tiger.

People have a difficult time with balancing control. There is the camp of people who must have control all the time and have many emotional difficulties when they lose it. Then there is the camp of people who have mantras like “It is what it is” and “Let go and let God” and go through life believing that things happen to them and exercising any control is futile. But even for these people I believe they still are exercising some control-just control in they way they perceive a situation or problem.

As with most things in life its about balance. Control is a very human need. Having control usually helps us feel safe and secure because there is so much in this world that is out of our control. The world keeps turning without our say. The minutes tick by and there is nothing we can do to stop them. Bad things happen. People get sick, people die, disasters occur without anyway of preventing them. It makes sense that some people stay up late into the night organizing books alphabetically or scrubbing the grout on their tile floors until its spotless. We all have ways of coping with uncertainty of the future and having little to no control over it. Its up to us to figure out if that is a healthy way of coping or not. Here are a couple of tips for keeping your inner control freak in check.

1) Remember what is in your control-the list is short. It’s pretty simple actually. What can you control? Your thoughts, your words, your actions. You’ll notice I didn’t include feelings. Emotions are natural responses and you can not control how you feel but you can control how you deal with them. Another big one that we often attempt to control that doesn’t belong? Other people. And that includes our children. We can give them positive modeling, emotional support, and life skills to succeed but ultimately their choices and behaviors are their own and not something we can control. This is helpful to remember when a sibling continues to act irresponsibly and you want to lecture them for the 63rd time or when your toddler is in the throes of a temper tantrum and you feel it must reflect on your parenting and therefore you must do something to fix it. Liberate yourself by putting responsibility back on other people and being there for support not to step in and fix things.

2). Scaling. I’m a big fan of the technique of scaling in my work. Using a scale of 1-10 for a variety of different things in life can give you a little bit more of an objective perspective on your feelings and problems. So when you feel a little out of control ask yourself, “On a scale of 1-10 how important is it to me that I have control in this situation?” You might find you are trying to control a situation or problem that isn’t that important to you and you can take a step back.  You can also ask yourself “On a scale of 1-10 how likely is it that I can actually exercise control in this situation?” Your answer may give you some rational thinking and perspective to pull back or figure out a way that you can exercise some control in a practical and rational way.

3.) Take stock of your coping skills. When things are out of our control we tend to compensate with finding ways to control elsewhere. Sometimes this can be a healthy control like cleaning our house  or organizing something. Other times we can get obsessive to the point that our daily lives are impacted negatively or we attempt to control something that we cannot. Make sure you have a go-to list of some healthy coping skills you can use when you are having trouble letting go. My own personal favorites are making sure my dishes are done and having something to pour my nervous energy into like a blog or a personal project.

4.) Take a deep breath and focus on the moment. When you realize that you only have control of yourself in this particular moment it can be liberating to realize that there may be nothing you can do but notice what is going on around you at the time. You have no control of future moments, just this one. Try to notice minute details of the moment that will help draw your mind to what is going on in the present. What do you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell right now? What details can you notice about your current environment? Take notice of your breaths in and out. All you have control over right now is this particular moment–what can you do with it to help yourself feel calm and empowered?

Becoming a parent is a huge loss of control. We lose control over our schedules, some of our privileges, and over having a good understanding of what we are doing in life because let’s face it-parenting includes a huge amount of uncertainty. Why is he crying? Why is he off schedule?Why isn’t she walking yet? We are responsible for a human being but we can not fully control them. So when parenting is uncertain and you feel you’ve lost all control keep perspective and be brave for your child. Help them see that in a world of uncertainty you can take a deep breath and summon up courage to continue to try and achieve goals and enjoy your life. Uncertainty is the certainty. And remember, sometimes there are amazing things waiting in the unknown.

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Welcome to Full Motherhood

“This is hard.”
And it’s true. It is really hard.
Once you’re in the mom club life gets full of contradictions and confusion. Day to day pace picks up and trudges along at the same time. You can feel completely bored and overwhelmed by things to do at the same time. All you want is to be alone and when you are you can’t help but miss that face, that smile, that giggle. It’s easy to feel lost and find your own way in a sea of parenting decisions, online forums and pushy family members.
I’m not an mom expert. But I do have experience as a behavioral health therapist and my reflections on mental health have been a saving grace for me in my own motherhood journey. I inspire to have a full motherhood-one that invigorates me, challenges me, exhausts me, and ultimately fulfills me.

So welcome to Full Motherhood. I intend for this blog to be of encouragement for all you moms out there, drawing on mental and emotional wellness concepts to help you find your own fulfillment in motherhood. From coping with anxiety, frustration or anger and finding peace within the moment, rejecting judgment and societal expectations, and finding your own mom confidence, I hope my weekly posts leave you feeling a little bit lighter of the negative and fuller of self-awareness and joy in privilege of being a mother.